Addressing Challenging Behavior - Point of View

Video Transcript

Welcome to the Challenging Behavior webcast on Point of View. I'm Wendy Szakacs, a regional consultant with OCALI, the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence. Before we dive into the process for building a behavior plan, we want to get on the same page to see how we talk and see individuals with disabilities.

For some of you, this might be information near and dear to your heart and for others it might be a new way of thinking. And for everyone, it's a resource you can use to share with your colleagues, family members, and community members about how to think about your student, your child, or your neighbor.

We'd like to thank Shawna Benson, Program Director of the Disability Center at OCALI, for sharing this presentation with us for use with the behavior series. We're going to start by thinking about how each human being has a story. We all have experiences and other people that contribute to that story.

Let's bring that focus down to the story each child has and how we can contribute to writing it. First, it starts with our belief system about each child. Do we see limitless potential? Do we see the possibility for greatness? Do we believe each child can be a valuable, contributing member of his or her learning community? Are we contributing to the child's story in the best way we can to help him or her move towards their ultimate adult life?

For some of these individuals this may take the form of a college education, a groundbreaking career, while for others it may mean having their own apartment, an active leisure schedule, and a job they enjoy. Just as with all individuals, those with disabilities desire a happy, balanced, and fulfilling life. When individuals struggle with behavioral challenges, we may have to work even harder to see the potential and possibilities.

I'm going to share a couple of videos with you that illustrate stories of remarkable people. First up is Patrick, a young man with a low incidence disability who was overcome many barriers in his quest for a fulfilling and successful life. He's a college student with the help, support, and encouragement of his family, friends, and educators. Let's watch.

The piece is titled "Clair de Lune," light of the moon. In the darkness of his eyes and through the sweetness of his hands, when Patrick Hughes plays it is the music of possibility and the sound of promise.

How would you describe your disabilities?

Not disabilities at all, more abilities.

Abilities everybody hears and sees at every Louisville football game. To understand how Patrick Hughes and his father became a two-person member of the Cardinal Marching Band, go back to when the music began. Born without eyes and with a tightening of the joints that prevents his limbs from ever straightening, Patrick has been blinded and crippled from birth.

It's just countless the number of dreams that died. And my wife and I were devastated. We just asked why us? We played by all the rules. We worked hard. We just didn't understand.

Kisses for dad.

That heartbreaking began to fade, even before Patrick's first birthday, from his first moments at the family's piano in Louisville, Kentucky.


You could go up and hit a note and no matter where I was on the piano and within one or two tries he would find that exact note.

By his second birthday, he was playing requests. Can you play "You're My Sunshine?"


Play Twinkle.


I was just ecstatic that, you know, OK, we're not going to play baseball, but we're going to play music together. And that was really exciting. Let's see how far we can run with this.

Fitted with artificial eyes and placed in a wheelchair, as Patrick grew so did his passion and his talent. He played old standards by grade school--


--and blues numbers in high school.


By the time he arrived at the University of Louisville this year, his musical ability on piano, as well as trumpet, was well known throughout the city.

I said, Patrick, you're going to be part of the marching band. And their reaction was just a little bit of a pause.

My dad and I were hearing this, and we're like, ah, right. I mean, how in the heck am I supposed to march?

The next step was working out what we needed to make happen in order for Patrick to be involved in the marching band, other than just parking on the sidelines and playing his instrument.

I said, well, if Doctor Burns is that impassioned about it and Patrick wants to do it, then, by golly, I'll give it my all as well.

So it was decided, Patrick would play and dad would push. As part of the 214 member Louisville marching band , a blind and wheelchair bound trumpet player and his able-bodied father do it all, together. From the pregame drill practice, to the march around the stadium, to the halftime performance in front of thousands. Dad rolls and rotates his son across the field in, mostly, perfect formation.

He'll sometimes end up pushing me a little quicker than normal. So that pretty much means, hey, he must have done something wrong, so he's gotta hurry up to get me to the right spot.

In order to be at every band practice--

I'm too slow on the spin.

And to sit beside his son in every class, Patrick's father works the graveyard shift for UPS. How would you describe a work day for you dad?

Poor thing. He goes to work about 11 o'clock at night Monday through Thursday nights. And then gets in at about 6:00. And goes to bed at about 6:00 and sleeps 'til around 11:00.

By the time Patrick moves from his bed into his wheelchair each morning, dad is ready to begin their day together.

He's my hero. I've told him before. What he goes through, it's taught me that I don't really have any complaints. I guess a father couldn't ask for any more than the relationship that I have with Patrick.

God made me blind and unable to walk, big deal. He gave me the ability, the musical gifts I have and the great opportunity to meet new people.

Maybe when they hear him play, they recognize, wow, you know, imagine the possibilities I didn't even consider when I saw this to young man that I now know from hearing him play.

So whether it be on a field playing the Louisville fight song or at the piano playing "Clair de Lune," in a sense the melody is the same. Patrick Hughes plays so that we might hear the music of opportunity and the sound of potential.

What a story. Do you see how several different people in Patrick's life saw the possibility for greatness? His parents, the band director, and I'm sure other teachers, therapists, and doctors. His story was written with contributions from many people along the way helping him reach a successful outcome.

The next video shows Casey. He's a young man with Autism Spectrum Disorder. He's come a long way. Let's watch Casey's story.

If it needs be stacked, sorted, or shredded, Casey O'Mara is the man.

I met Chris Filler, and Simon, and Tammy.

At the OCALI offices in Columbus, Casey is among the most devoted employees in the building. The building blocks to get Casey here were laid years ago. He was diagnosed with PDD NOS at four years old.

When he was diagnosed, I was working in an elementary school the time. And I knew, working with those kids, I was like, Casey's not going to be able to do this. I didn't know what it would look like, his future.

Casey finished high school with few social skills and even fewer prospects for a future.

Casey was not going to get a job. Getting a job was meaning that he was going to grow up. And he did not want to grow up.

What we know about people with autism is that they are very capable, but oftentimes they need at a longer period of time not just to develop the skills, but to get comfortable, to understand the social implications.

The staff at OCALI created a job skills training program for people with autism to learn and perform all aspects of employment. With Casey, the proof of its worth shows in his performance. From email to setting a timer, Casey follows a daily map of his tasks, typically without any supervision.

The key is creating supports to help the employees succeed. Repetitive tasks and schedules create comfort and performance responds in kind.

In the last two years, he's become a man, truly. He really has. I've seen it at home, his independence. I've seen his maturity, his growth.

He's met all these new people here. He's taking directions from so many new people. The thing is you have to find the strength of the child, not fit them in a mold that we have already developed.

Another terrific story. Casey's authors included his mom, his school staff, and people who worked at OCALI, people who saw a limitless potential even when he was older, people who didn't give up.

Next, we're going to review some of the basics. Remember, I told you earlier that this was created by Shawna Benson from OCALI? Well, several years ago Shawna was visiting classes for students with multiple disabilities in public schools. She observed a few things.

Many times, there may only be one classroom in a district or at a grade level, so teachers can be isolated. Also, when she went to the primary, middle, and secondary classes in the same district, she often saw the same lessons being taught. So that meant that students were being taught the same thing year after year, like pumpkins in October and winter in January.

And many times the materials being used were not appropriate for the age of the students. Think about your own child, if you have one, or a niece, or a nephew. Would you want him or her to be learning the same material every year? A Groundhog Day of first grade, and second grade, and again in third grade, and possibly on and on.

None of us would want that. And so in the perspective of limitless potential and the possibility for greatness, this just doesn't fit. If what I'm going to share with you feels like common knowledge and is your belief system, that's terrific. You'll be ready to move ahead with the Behavior Webcasts.

If any of it is new, take some time to absorb it and then you'll be ready to. As persons who support individuals with complex needs, we need to be advocates. We need to be teaching them how to advocate for themselves. This means that we want every learner to have access to all possible opportunities.

We want to learners to have the supports and services needed to be successful in all situations. We definitely want all individuals with complex needs to feel comfortable socially, and to have friends. Add that up to having an enviable life.

We must consider the continuum of learners. There has to be a feature match of instructional strategies, environments, technology, and behavior plans between these things and the learner. This includes school, home, community, and vocational environments. And it can only happen with forethought and planning, plus consistent implementation.

Let's talk etiquette for a minute. Sometimes teachers, family members, and community members find themselves uncomfortable or maybe unsure of how to communicate effectively and offer support in a respectful way with individuals who have significant physical or cognitive differences. Some considerations for interacting with individuals with disabilities are similar guidelines to interacting in a respectful manner with non-disabled individuals.

The first consideration is to see the person's abilities first and focus on those. Each of us wants to be recognized and regarded for the things we can do well, rather than have people focus on our limitations. And in addition, and for the same reasons, it's always good protocol to ask someone if they need assistance before automatically assuming they need assistance.

Most individuals with disabilities desire the same thing that non-disabled individuals desire, to be seen and regarded as independent, competition, and self-reliant individuals. It's important to practice the habit of speaking to individuals in an age appropriate manner. While this seems intuitive, a frequent complaint of individuals who may be small in stature or those who do not communicate verbally is that people often speak down to them, or speak in simplified language, or what might be regarded as baby-talk.

It's safe to assume that all individuals desire to be spoken to in a manner consistent with their age and the culture of their environment. Along with this, it's always a considerate act to position yourself to speak to others on eye level when possible. So if you're speaking to an individual in a wheelchair, have a seat if you can, so as to enable that person to look directly in your eyes and not have to look up at the speaker all the time.

It's always good to remember that individuals with disabilities know that you may have questions or concerns about them and their disability. When you do have a question most individuals are not offended by direct, respectful, open, and honest questions that are directed to them with positive intent. By the same token, it's important to respect privacy and confidentiality, and not ask questions of an overly personal nature that any non-disabled person would find offensive or intrusive.

Does this all sound like things you know? If yes, that is terrific. You can continue to advocate for others on your team to follow this way of thinking.

How many of you have heard of person-first language? This means we don't use the phrase is listed here that imply limitation. I want you to think about something about yourself that you don't like it all. You got something? Now think about how you would feel they have that thing said in front of your name all the time.

Would you start believing big nose Betty or freckly Freida? Is that how you would see yourself? Not how we'd like to live. So let's look at some examples of person-first language.

Have you heard people say, oh, those are my IEP kids. Do you envision a big IEP with arms and legs? Yikes, not the vision we want others to have of the individuals we support. So, think like the phrases on the right side of the slide, and think about the person first.

Just because we advocated inclusion, doesn't mean that we don't believe that all students need their own the least restrictive environment or LRE. This means that some students still may need direct instruction and modified curriculum, while still maintaining some inclusive activities and curricular exposure. Environments can include instruction in regular classes, special classes, special schools, home instruction, and instruction in hospitals and institutions.

Let's watch this video from OCALI that tells us a little bit more about LRE.

Least Restrictive Environment legislation has been around since the 1990s as one of the six principles under IDEA, for which the groundwork was laid in the 1970s. The controversy over how LRE is interpreted and practiced seems to be a topic of interest to this day. Many people use the term inclusion, but it seems as though most don't understand the true intent of the word.

For example, some might say this student is going to inclusion class, as if inclusion were a place we enter and exit. In this context, we associate the term inclusion, and therefore LRE, with just location. In doing so, it may be assumed that if we put the student in a certain location that they have accessed their LRE. However, the intent of the law is quite different.

Inclusion is not a place. Inclusion is a philosophy, just as LRE is not a place, but a package of supports and services that include elements of a setting, materials, accommodations, and personnel. Both LRE and inclusive philosophies are foundation in the structure of best practices that ensures that all learners have access to meaningful education.

The continuum of LREs is as vast as the needs and skills of the learners we teach. Each student needs individualized consideration for LRE based on his or her unique strengths and needs. Remember, LRE is not a place, but a range of services and supports that should be provided in general education settings as often as possible.

Imagine a backpack containing all of the IEP-team determined supports and services, which a student can carry with them throughout the day. A student supports and services package is individualized and includes their specific accommodations, modifications, tools, materials, and personnel.

As the student transitions into and out of settings throughout the day, they should have this imaginary backpack with them no matter where they go. Ultimately, LRE determination should be made with these supports and services in place before moving to a more restrictive LRE.

There are several critical elements and successful implementation of LRE including IEP teams that decides LRE on a case by case basis, matching LRE with each learner's strengths and needs-- use of universal design, differentiation, and assistive technologies; strategic use of all staff; paraprofessionals who are trained as independence coaches; and administration that build inclusive philosophies district-wide by modeling and expecting the use of people-first language and by providing time for collaborative planning practices that integrate content, function, and supports and services. Acceptance, belonging, participation, worth, and dignity, isn't this what we want for all people?

Modeling inclusive practices in youth paves the way for adults who value all people for who they are, and the uniqueness each person brings to our society, workplace, and community. If we want better outcomes for individuals with disabilities to work and live side by side, we need to build the understanding early in life that each person has unique set of needs that they bring with them everywhere they go.

Two people completing the same job could use different methods and materials and still accomplish the same end result. Wouldn't it be nice if this were just the norm?

Does that help make a little more sense about LRE? The law explains LRE as each public agency must ensure that to the maximum extent appropriate children with disabilities-- including children in public or private institutions, or other care facilities-- are educated with children who are non-disabled. And special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only if the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes, with the use of supplementary aids and services, cannot be achieved satisfactorily.

This means that the child gets to start in the least restrictive environment with everything that needs to be in place. So for instance, if a student is in a resource room using a written schedule, a laptop for typing assignments, and a reduced number of items per assignment and then is moved to the third grade general education classroom down the hall, all of those things go with him or her. And data is what makes the decision about LRE.

Let's take a look at this student. She needs all of these supports and services. She receives services of a physical therapist, speech and language pathologist, occupational therapist, and an intervention specialist. She also needs a wheelchair, special seating, splints, a communication device and visual supports.

So when this student is in the general education room she needs all of the supports and services that have been identified before the team can look at her data and determine if that's her LRE. She would need all of them in a resource room too. She would need them in specials or in a hospital setting. LRE cannot be determined without all supports and services in place.

Can behavior be impacted by LRE? Absolutely, a student who is in an environment that's too difficult, or too easy, or without the supports and services needed to be there may communicate those challenges through behavior. Let's check out this video about inclusive philosophy.

What is inclusion? Inclusion is belonging. Inclusion is an attitude, a philosophy. Inclusion is not a program.

Inclusion is a right, not a favor, not a trial period. Inclusion is a sense of belonging, being part of a community, and being valued and respected as a contributing member. Inclusion is accepting differences and responding to individual needs.

Inclusion gives children the permission to be themselves. Inclusion facilitates positive social interactions. Inclusion offers opportunities and rewards for children with and without disabilities.

When you are a child with a disability, what does it mean to be included? Inclusion means more than just physically being placed with typically developing children. It is not a place or a measured amount of time spent with others. Universally, it means belonging.

Don't you love those happy faces? Inclusion can work. If we never allow students to do the things we think they can't, we will never know how they can learn and what they do know. This saying reminds us that we need to offer more than what we think is possible.

Remember that story from the introductory webcast about the student I had? The one who read just a few words when he came to me as a first grader, who's now in college? Never underestimate, always go for more.

Here are some things you might hear people say when you start to adopt an inclusive philosophy, and it's about the cannots. Just because someone hasn't been exposed to an experience and doesn't have the skills yet doesn't mean it can't happen.

One important piece of an inclusive philosophy is making sure staff receive the training to be successful. If assistive technology or environmental supports are new to someone on the team, then training needs to happen. Going to implement co-teaching? Then training needs to happen.

Are differentiated instruction and tiered planning needed? Then training needs to take place. In developing the foundation of support for learners with complex needs it's helpful to have some core beliefs for all stakeholders. A key to successful inclusion of all learners is developing an attitude of ownership. Ownership is the concept of shared responsibility for the success of every learner.

In order to have shared ownership, it's essential that we recognize every learner's inherent value. No learner has to justify his or her presence in the school or classroom. Every child belongs. In addition, it's critical for all stakeholders to have a genuine belief that all people have limitless potential, and that our role as educators is to unlock the potential in each child.

Extending that concept is the belief that inaction can be as detrimental as taking the wrong action. As educators, it's essential that we strive to take positive action daily to involve, support, and encourage all learners to reach their greatest potential by providing them respectful work, sufficient support, high expectations, and opportunities to build meaningful relationships and pursue their dreams. Check out someone with an amazing attitude.

I just love life. I love life. You know, so many people come and say, how come you smile so much? And I'm like, well, it's a long story. [LAUGHING]


The desire for me to be independent and live a normal life, and a full life, is a dream of mine. I really just want to put limits aside and live life to the fullest. And just going for it. To overcome an obstacle, you have to realize where you are and to visualize yourself overcome these obstacles, to focus on the positive things that we do have, using everything that we have to the best of our ability.

Many people look at me and say, Nick, how come you're smiling? How come you're so happy? And I want to be like you. And I don't mean, I want to be like you, in a prideful way, but they see the strength in me.

You look at me and you want the confidence that I have. You want the smile that I have. Many people ask where it's from. And tonight I'm going to tell you where Nick's smile is from.


Get set. Whoop. (LAUGHING) That's fun. Let's do it again.

Did you see all of the supports Nick has to be able to independently get through his day? He has had people helping write his story and helping him towards having an enviable life. Thanks for watching this Point of View webcast. We believe that this way of thinking is the foundational step to being ready to help an individual with complex needs change his or her challenging behavior. You're now ready for Challenging Behavior webcast one, Defining the Behavior.

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Explore the foundational concepts that help raise expectations for those with complex disabilities. Change your disposition and imagine the possibilities for the individual. Consider how advocacy, person-first language, etiquette, and inclusion in the least restrictive environment impact learning and behavior. Make the most of daily opportunities to engage individuals.

View all the Documents in this series here